Wednesday, January 22, 2014

And now for something cheerier

Are you a writer or editor type?

Are you Mormon, or at least Mormon-friendly?

You should sign up for LDStorymakers 2014. I'm going (in fact, I am TEACHING) and it will be a rocking good time! I have been to Storymakers twice and both times I was extremely impressed with the caliber of teachers, agents, and editors in attendance.

As a bonus, this year the conference is in my hometown's newer, richer sibling city, Layton! I'll show you all the cool, hip spots (mostly just the one burger place I really like, and the Surf and Swim, which will probably still be covered by a bubble dome in April).

Anyone signing up for Storymakers? Anyone thinking about it?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

I've made a terrible mistake

People, you know how mamas are supposed to tell their babies not to grow up to be cowboys?

I'm here to tell you, don't move into neighborhoods filled with people who have too much time on their hands.

I have been reported to the city for having a messy yard.

My neighbor also threatened to sue me a few months ago. I didn't blog that one in detail because I was too angry and anxious at the time, but here's how the story goes:

I had the big trees ripped out of my yard today, at the suggestion of both my neighbors. It cost $2,500. My brother Charlie stayed at the house while I was at work and overheard my neighbors talking about how they're going to sue me because I didn't get their permission to have "heavy machinery" on their (read: OUR) driveway and the landscaper's cherry picker left a SKID MARK on the ground.

Repeat: on the ground.

So that night, when my neighbor came over to my house to yell at me because someday his cement might crack (in Utah, where temperatures freeze in the winter and boil in the summer) and that will be all my fault because a cherry picker once spent thirty minutes on his cement (and the fact that he parks two boats, a motor home, a F-250, and an SUV on it on the reg is apparently irrelevant), I told him to go ahead and sue me already.

Most lawyers, myself included, would recommend against encouraging people to sue you. Suing is, generally speaking, a bit of a hassle. But frankly, I was in no mood to be threatened with a bogus lawsuit. As my neighbor blustered about his "potential THOUSANDS in damages"* to his cement, I calmly pulled out the proof of the landscaper's million dollar insurance policy and told him to get off my porch.

(And then later panicked because OH MY GOSH, I JUST TOLD A CRAZY PERSON TO SUE ME.)

A week later, Hannah moved out of the house. I decided not to go camping over Labor Day weekend, as I'd planned, so I could help run interference with her and our neighbor. While we didn't actually end up having a fight, he did sit on his porch for fifteen minutes, swearing and yelling at us as we loaded up her aunt's truck with furniture.

That neighbor and I haven't spoken beyond "Merry Christmas" since this summer, but don't you worry, he finally got his revenge on me. Today, in fact.

When he called the city today to report me for failure to get a permit before knocking down the dividing wall between my kitchen and dining room.

Now, to be fair, I was supposed to get a permit. (I didn't know I needed a city permit for a cosmetic alteration to my own house, but that's a story for another day.) But the point is, my neighbor had to get on the city's website, look up my address, find out I didn't have one, and then call the city to report me. That's a whole lot of steps to take out of sheer spite.

Don't worry, it wasn't that big of a deal. I went down to the city this afternoon (I will be working quite late tonight to make up for that little detour) and two hours later I got my $200 building permit. And then out of curiosity, I checked the permit site myself, to see if my neighbors got a permit for their new fence. (They didn't. I won't report them though, because I am not terrible.)**

But seriously, it's a life lesson to us all.

Avoid people who have nothing better to do than mess with you.

* Spoiler alert: Speculative damages are not real damages. This message brought to you by law school.

** If you live in Salt Lake City, here's something you probably didn't know: You need a permit to do ANYTHING to your house other than paint the walls and carpet the floors. You want a new door? Permit. New fence? Permit. New windows? You betcha. Don't even get them started about tearing down a non-load-bearing wall.

And the thing is, while I understand that this is the sort of thing that drives otherwise normal people to become libertarians (joke: please don't come after me, libertarians), I'm not even annoyed with the city officials. The inspector and the folks at the permitting office were as nice as can be. They didn't fine me over my ignorance, though they could have (a fact I'm sure will rankle my neighbor), and very kindly gave me a day to fix the permit situation before citing me for my failures. 

So it's not the city I am annoyed with. What I can't understand is what drives some people to live their lives looking for an unearned payout and opportunities to dick people over. I am quite sure that no matter how long I live, I will never figure that one out.

At least it's good writing fodder.

Monday, January 20, 2014


The blog has been silent as of late, but that doesn't mean I am not learning life lessons all over the place. Oh, no.

Take this one, for example.

IKEA is great for many things -- inexpensive furniture and meatballs being the best examples. They are not great, however, at efficiency or accuracy.

Take my new kitchen remodeling project, for example. It took IKEA three tries to deliver all the cabinets and parts I'd ordered, and once I began opening boxes, I realized immediately that at least one was wrong.

The best part of this story was that I let the IKEA people sucker me into paying them $200 for them to design my kitchen, because that way, "Nothing would be wrong when you go to checkout."

Oh, IKEA. Oh, you kidders.

Or the countertops I ordered. They waited until I was about to pay -- having already planned and scheduled the remodel -- to tell me that the pale gray quartz I wanted was on back-order until February. (For the record, I paid IKEA in November and spent TWO sessions with their kitchen planners before they mentioned this. That's one long back-order).

I ultimately ordered the IKEA countertops, hoping there would be an update (or a miracle). There never was, and when I went back to the store for the fourth time last weekend to cancel my order it took a half dozen (no exaggeration) different employees to refund my money.

Of course, all this drama has to be balanced against the fact that IKEA is cheap as hell and relatively easy to assemble. But if you, like me, find the failure of others to do their jobs supremely irritating -- to the point of near-rage-blackout-levels -- maybe live with the 1960s-era kitchen until you can afford the custom job.

Why, is that beige and red checkerboard underneath your old yellow linoleum? Indeed it is!
But either way, stock up on face masks.